Smart leads in 4G availability: OpenSignal

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A recent report by OpenSignal, a United Kingdom-based wireless coverage mapping company, showed PLDT wireless subsidiary Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) now leads in terms of availability of its fourth-generation (4G) network in both rural and urban areas in the Philippines.

In its analysis conducted from Sept. 1 to Nov. 30., OpenSignal said Smart’s 4G availability, or the time users spend being connected to the 4G network, is 14% higher in urban areas compared with rural areas.

OpenSignal said that during the three-month period, Smart’s 4G availability in rural areas was 70.1% compared with Globe Telecom, Inc.’s 64.8%. In urban areas, Smart scored 82.5% while Globe scored 80.3%.

The mobile analytics firm noted the difference between rural and urban experience highlights the challenge in the quality of mobile experience in rural regions “regardless of operator.”

“(This) provides evidence for why initiatives such as sharing cell towers in rural areas are an important tool to help narrow gaps in the quality of the mobile experience between users in metro areas and those in regional and rural areas,” OpenSignal said.

In terms of the download speed, OpenSignal said the results were “very polarized” across regions, noting that Smart users in rural areas experienced a faster speed than Globe except in Central Luzon, Central Visayas, and Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) wherein the networks tied.

The report noted that in Region 12 and Cagayan, the download speed experience of Smart users “was more than twice as fast as the speed our Globe users saw.”

Users in urban areas experienced “more competitive speeds” on Globe network, OpenSignal said, noting that the network even beat Smart in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).

“But Smart users’ faster speeds made it untouchable in ten urban regions, including the National Capital Region, where our users on Smart benefited from an impressive 15.2 Mbps, an enviable 5.6 Mbps faster than the speeds our Globe users saw in the capital,” the report said.

OpenSignal noted that Smart’s 82% increase in 4G data users last year has resulted in “increased congestion and lower average speeds.”

In a statement, Smart attributed its “sustained improvement” to its higher capital expenditures program this year estimated at P78.4 billion, which includes investments in network, IT systems, and increased LTE coverage and capacity, among others.

Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a stake in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. — Arjay L. Balinbin